INTERVIEW: Fabrizio Grossi of Soul Garage Experience

Fabrizio Grossi has previously drifted through the I Heart Guitar transom via his work in Supersonic Blues Machine, an all-star powerhouse trio with Kenny Aronoff and Kris Barras. Now, with a little bit of pandemic downtime on his hands, Fabrizio has stepped into the spotlight with Soul Garage Experience, a funky, groovy, addictively uplifting outfit who has just birthed the album Counterfeited Blues (for the Soulstice), out September 10.

This this feels like music I’m gonna enjoy over the summer. I’ve interviewed Kenny Aronoff about Supersonic Blues Machine and I was aware of what you’re up to, but this new project is really you kind of striking out on your own, right?
Fabrizio: Yeah. Actually Kenny plays on a couple of tracks on the record. These are some songs that we already had down for a few years, like older songs. Some are songs that I took from the batch that was preparing for the new Supersonic Blues Machine record that I din’t think would fit it no more, for what we’re trying to do, and they sounded more like what I would do. And then some other stuff was written during the pandemic. So, um, I, you know, I think it was about time for me to do this cause I wanted to get more busy. It looks like a busy year next year for Supersonic in terms of touring when we have a new record coming out and all of it.
Fabrizio: But because of the nature of that band and my life, the last five years, six years of my life were dedicated fully to that and I had to set a lot of my production work aside. So I wanted to have another output where whenever I was not able to go out with Supersonic because of the dynamic of that band; everything needs to be planned very well in advance with Supersonic. Well, I wanted to get something that was a little bit easier to handle for the daily tasks. In other words, I would say Supersonic is like Sunday shoes. You know, it’s like your church dress, whereas this is more like your sneakers which are very, very comfortable and which is what you will probably will wear the most of the time.
Peter: You know what, I love the name too, because it’s very evocative. I mean, I want to hang out at the Soul Garage, right?
Fabrizio: Yeah. I will say that has a very hip-hop approach to it because I see it not only as the name of this band of musicians that is playing with me on this thing, but also it’s the name of the studio and the production company; a lot of the stuff that we’re doing is falling under the name Soul Garage Experience, because what we bring with the band, it’s an experience. It’s not just a band at the end of the day, it’s like, this is like my baby but I can not go on stage alone, and I have a bunch of friends that I’m playing along with who also bring their own thing. So it’s a very community-oriented type of type of situation.
Everything that I’ve been sent, it’s always very uplifting. I’m really incredibly humble and appreciative of that response. So I guess it gives me hope that my agent can secure some spots across the planet and especially in your land. I always wanted to come and play Australia! So agents and promoters, if you are there, if you’re listening, Soul Garage Experience will love to come and play in Australia!
Peter: So you mentioned some of this was written during the pandemic.
Fabrizio: So basically the old COVID-19 screwed up everything completely and basically turned the whole thing in an utter clusterfuck. However, I’m a Buddhist, so I believe that behind every wall, there is an opportunity to go even higher. And I see this as an opportunity to do things. I mean, it gave me the opportunity to finish something that otherwise probably was going to get shelved again, because something else would have to take over in terms of priority. And it probably also gave me lot more time to reflect. I mean, at least on a personal level.
So like now that it’s like where they say ‘You don’t know what you got until it’s gone,’ well now, you can’t travel. I have friends, family, and people that I’m very close to all over the world. I’m not kidding. You know, I’m not trying to exaggerate, I’m saying all over the world. So knowing that maybe this summer I’m going to end up in Israel after all and see all my people over there, or this winter going to Brazil. And you just take it for granted and especially for us as musicians, that’s your thing, the thing that you fought all your life for and you cannot do it any more because of this situation.
It makes you really appreciate what we were doing before. I’ve been talking to a lot of friends of mine that have had the opportunity and the blessing to be able to go out and tour right now this summer and they do not approach this as they did before. In other words, they’re way more appreciative and humbled every single time they able to set foot on the stage. So I think those are the good things, but people lost businesses, houses, and being musicians means we do not have the income of records no more because nobody buys records …and the streaming it’s like, you know, pennies on the dollar. No, it’s panties on the dollar, and when you remove your panties, generally you tend to get screwed!
So basically live and merch are the only two things that really allow musicians to make a living. I don’t want to get into a music business masterclass, but it’s quite complicated and not everyone was able to receive the necessary support to face this catastrophe. And I really feel bad for them because it’s just not right. At the end of the day, everybody enjoys music, everybody enjoys concerts, getting together over a particular song or particular movie. But then again with this pandemic, all of a sudden we’re considered not essential no more. Okay, cool. We’re not essential. How about I’m going to shut off the radio and the TV, you know, you can have your news if you want, shut off any movies and entertainment stuff, and the radio, and any source of music for the 2, 3, 4 months that you’re going to be in lockdown, then you’re going to tell me how crazy you’re going to go. And then you tell me if we’re not important.
Peter: Yeah, it’s like ‘Well enjoy spending time with your brain, morons!’. So let’s talk about equipment because I’m a big nerd. I’ve seen you with some cool Ibanez Soundgears.
Fabrizio: I’m an Ibanez man! I never had an instrument in my life that’s so easy to play. It plays by itself. It’s like it shouldn’t be legal. It has its own Ibanez electronics and pickup, and it sounds fantastic. It even has possibly too many options for me! I mean, I understand they make these instruments for everybody, so you need to make everybody happy from the salsa player to the metal guy. But I’d just be well enough off with volume, tone and pick up selector. But I will say that I can dial a bunch of different things and I can get close to a lot of different sounds, in terms of to adjust for different songs, like you will do in a pop session. And I use a bunch of pedals all the time. I never really go clean. My main pedal is the MarkBass Compressore, which is probably one of the best compressors ever made, to a point where I finally convinced Marco, the owner of MarkBass, to make it like studio version, because I used it often on mixes.You don’t hear it but you feel it. And then I have a bunch of different pedals like an old SansAmp which I used to use that back in the days when we were still recording on tape. I sometimes re-amp tracks through that. Sometimes I create a parallel circuit that gives it enough additional bite.I always use sounds and effects and all that. I do not like bass straight from the instrument to the mixer. I mean, don’t get me wrong. It’s a fantastic sound for a lot of things, but not for me.

Peter: Yeah. Now I’ve got to ask: you play with one of my all-time favorite drrummers, Stephen Perkins from Jane’s Addiction and Porno For Pyros. What’s it like to lock in with that guy? He has such a cool sound to me.
Fabrizio: I think Stephen is probably the most creative drummer I’ve ever played with. He is very spontaneous. It’s funny because often when he sets up his stuff, it devolves into these jazz rhythms and stuff, but not like what most people think in terms of jazz fusion: I mean almost like a Gene Krupa kind of vibe. I told him if he was not a drummer in a rock band, or probably in his past life, he was a saxophone player in a jazz band from the 30s or 40s.
But also Perkins likes soul music and especially the real trippy stuff. And he’s a major Fela Kuti fan – Fela Kuti obviously being the genius that he was, the black Frank Zappa before Frank Zappa. It has those kinds of elements with Perkins when he sits behind the drums. And the fact that he plays barefoot I think is looking for the most organic approach with his instrument.
Peter: Awesome. Well, thanks so much for your time. This has been a really fun chat and I love the music. And like I said, it’s going to be the soundtrack to my summer.
Fabrizio: Thank you so much. I really, really, really, really appreciate it. Uh, and I’m glad that there is more and more people that like this, and especially in Australia where I really hope I can go and play with the band!
Peter: Yeah, we need all the good, fun, danceable, uplifting music we can get right now.
Fabrizio: Great. Well, thank you so much again, appreciate it.